This current time is a period of change and adaptation for many – including journalists. The news agenda has changed and what once might have been front page news simply might no longer be of interest. As the UK adapts to lock-down life, the content that the media communicates and shares is changing to be reflective of the current climate on a daily basis. PR’s still play a vital role in assisting the media, in fact they are needed more than ever with journalists’ hectic schedules and unpredictable breaking news. With that in mind, here’s some advice on how to approach reaching out to journalists and maintaining a good relationship with them during this time.

Be helpful, clear and concise

Journalists are super busy at the best of time and just like the rest of us have deadlines and targets to meet. Think about how frustrating it can be when you’re in a rush and someone wants to talk to you on the phone for hours on end – you sometimes just wish they’d get to the point. Well journalists feel the same! Now more than ever it’s crucial that when you’re speaking to them you are clear and get your point across in your email as soon as you can. A top tip is to try and sum up the key points in your first sentence or paragraph. If you don’t, they might get bored and stop reading on. Also try and grab their attention in the subject line – make it fun or engaging as if not, they may hit delete straight away.

It’s also really important that you make sure you have all the information they might need or ask for to hand. For example think in advance before contacting them if they’re likely to want images and make sure you have these available. If they’re likely to want to speak to a spokesperson or if you’re offering this opportunity, see if you can get their availability beforehand. Or if the story is research based, try to have all the extra research stats ready to go in case it’s required. That way you’ll make the journalists life much easier and will stand a much better chance of getting your story featured.

Be clear and concise when pitching to journalists during the pandemic

Be mindful and sensitive towards the situation

The current situation is unpredictable and worrying for many so now isn’t the time to be used as an opportunity to profit or shoehorn your product into everything you’re doing. Instead try to be mindful towards the situation and offer practical advice and tips that will help people to feel positive and upbeat. This could be health related, or fun things for people to do indoors, anything uplifting people can be doing to make use of this time and feel productive will be welcomed. If possible try to change your approach! For example if you’re a food brand or a restaurant can you share recipe ideas for people to make in their kitchen? Or if you’re a fitness guru or diet brand can you offer at home workouts or advice on how to stay active? If the content you can offer will be of genuine help and interest to people and make them feel good in light of the current situation – it’s likely to be welcomed by journalists. A brand that has really taken this in their stride is Wagamama who are offering virtual cooking lessons – Wok from Home.

Also remember to take note of the fact that this period isn’t normal for most people. If the product that you’re pitching requires people to be outside to use it, involves travelling or requires multiple users it’s probably not appropriate to talk about. It might come across as insensitive and may damage relationships with journalists in the long run. Essentially, if you can play a role as a brand who has spread joy, and helped people feel calm and positive – that will stand you in great stead with both journalists and consumers.

Be light-hearted and fun, if it’s appropriate

Of course there’s a lot of very serious hard hitting news at the moment in light of the current climate. But that doesn’t mean all brands also need to adopt this tone, in fact the opposite! If it’s appropriate to do – anything your brand can do to put a smile on peoples faces will be welcomed at this time. Only take this approach if it is appropriate and in line with your brand – don’t force it.

A great example of where this has worked particularly well is with Nando’s who have created fun ways to ‘spice up your Zoom meetings’ with graphics of their famous dishes and spices as well as their restaurant music for background music. This is something fun and light-hearted that will make people laugh. Making people laugh and spreading joy is incredibly important right now and if you can be a brand that can do so naturally – that will be greatly appreciated!

Making people laugh and spreading joy will be greatly appreciated during this time

Be real, open and honest

Everyone is aware of the situation at hand and it wouldn’t make sense to hide away from it and pretend it’s not happening. Journalists are real people and now is a really great time to nurture and build a relationship with them that could serve you really well in the future. Ask them how them how are, start a conversation, find out what they’re writing about and see if you can actually add value and help them. This current unpredictable situation can be stressful and lonely for everyone – so just going that extra step to be considerate and show a genuine interest will be noted and remembered for the future. At the end of the day, we’re all human and it’s always appreciated when someone cares.

Also try to be as open and honest as you can in your communications. Journalists want to know how this is truly affecting brands and having a genuine conversation with them about it will be of real interest to them. People are interested in people and what others are doing and showing yourself as a brand that has this mindset will be really appealing for consumers and the media.

At Prohibition we work with a variety of brands across all sectors in both B2B and B2C industries. We create engaging PR campaigns that deliver real ROI. Get in touch today to find out how we could help you:

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About Abbey Gray

Junior Account Manager at Prohibition PR. First class journalism graduate, passionate writer and novice baker! Based in Leeds.